Marco Amasanti
Marco Amasanti is a Retail Analyst focusing on spending on the home, including DIY, electricals and furniture

Homewares has been one of the best performing non-essential retail sectors, as it’s been elevated by extended periods inside since the outbreak of COVID-19. Ultimately, these periods have seen many consumers reassess their living spaces, and thus prioritise spending on it. For many, homewares have come to the fore as a more affordable means of personalising these spaces. This was compounded by the polarisation of demand, as many consumers continued to struggle, and downscale or limit purchases as a result of ongoing uncertainty.

The popularity of homewares has been compounded by the rise of flexible living, and the need for these living spaces to do more – whether as a workspace, to home school, exercise or for leisure activities. We explore three key trends to look out for in this increasingly important sector.

Social media plays a key role in spending on the home

Social media is particularly important for inspiration at the start of the purchasing journey. This role has only grown as social media became arguably the most efficient means of engaging with housebound consumers since the outbreak in March 2020.

Within this, its role is simply unparalleled among younger consumers. In fact, when looking for design inspiration in the planning of a room, nearly half of consumers aged 16 to 34 years old look to social media (far surpassing the next closest factor – in-store displays) as the top source of influence for this age band.

The highly visual nature of home accessories makes it very compatible with platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest. As a result, online celebrity collaborations are well-explored in the market, from singer Rita Ora’s recent bedding line at Next and House of Fraser, TV personality Holly Willoughby’s line at Dunelm, to actress Michelle Keegan’s collaboration with Very.co.uk

Rita Ora’s luxurious bedding and accessories collaboration with Next

Source: Next

As identified by Mintel Trend ‘Influentials’, peer and celebrity influence can help dictate consumer behaviour, which homeware brands should be taking into account in their social media strategies.

The rise of ‘lifestyle brands’

Social media has also been central to the rise of ‘lifestyle brands’ in homewares. That is, the market for trend-driven, fashion-forward homewares, which have boomed in recent years. This has seen a wave of new entrants, spearheaded by clothing brands, as they, and other sectors, look to expand their home retail offering to build a comprehensive ‘lifestyle brand’ proposition – appealing to those who see the style of their home as an extension of their fashion style.

There’s been many recent examples of fashion retailers expanding into homewares –  such as H&M, Zara and Next Home, and most recently, Pretty Little Thing, which launched its homewares range, “PLT home” in November. It features soft furnishings, tableware, bedding, storage options and decorative accessories such as candles and dried flowers. 

PLT home aims to “bring fashion from your wardrobe to your home”.

Source: Pretty Little Thing

Sustainability: a major opportunity

Amid the UK’s increasingly environmentally-conscious consumer base, green credentials are an important determinant of choice. In fact, environmental factors play the greatest role in choice among younger shoppers, prioritised by a quarter of shoppers aged 16-34 years old. Interestingly, this was also highest among urban dwellers (among whom concerns of air quality and pollution are perhaps nearer to home) and households with an income over £50,000.

However, there remains a lot of room for improvement in the home accessories market with regard to sustainability. In fact, the topic is already making shockwaves in the fashion industry, between which home accessories enjoys close ties. Consumers are already asking fashion retailers to do more in this regard as they grow more aware of the harmful impact certain shopping habits can have on the environment.

Retailers must harness the growing consumer interest in sustainability, where it could serve an essential means of encouraging footfall in-store, especially as confidence gradually returns to the high street. This factor is key to the development of in-store exchanges, such as IKEA’s buyback initiative – the model of which could be extended moving forward to cover new home sectors, such as flooring.

Spending on the home will continue to grow

Mintel forecasts this expenditure will continue to increase in the future. Much of this will be a result of the continuation of the trends seen in the past year, whether extended periods inside, together with the continued prioritisation of the home and redirection of expenditure. While the past year has seen a broader newfound appreciation of the home, both in its role in daily life and wellbeing.

This spending should also be buoyed by the recovery of bigger projects. In fact, the past year has seen many reassess their homes, particularly communal areas, and prioritise these in future spending. While much of this was limited by the immediacy of disruption, financial pressures and a reluctance to allow tradespeople into the home in the past year, it could set the market up for a windfall of new demand, such as home extensions, kitchen and bathroom renovations and garden makeovers in the coming year and beyond. 

Any increase in these big projects would have a knock-on effect on lower-ticket sectors, such as tableware, bedding and candles, as consumers look to dress and complement these new spaces.